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Susan M. Pojer, Web Mistress European Women in World War II. Samantha K. - QRS. What roles did European women play in World War II combat?. Britain. Many went into civil defense and the Women’s Land Army, but it began to change during World War II

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  • Many went into civil defense and the Women’s Land Army, but it began to change during World War II
  • Conscription began in 1941 for women 21 years of age, which required them to join the armed forces
Although women were recruited into the military, they were not allowed to fill active combat roles

Several non-combat units existed

Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS)

Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS)

Air Transport Auxiliary

Special Operations Executive (SOE)

Women as agents

Women as radio operatorsin areas of Nazi occupation

In 1949 women were officially recognized as part of the British military

british spies
British Spies
  • Among the most notorious British spies, are Lillian Rolfe, Denise Bloch, and Violette Szabo
    • Members of British Paratrooper Unit (FANY)
      • Worked as underground spies in France after being arrested by the S.S
  • “All three were very brace and I was deeply moved. Suhren was also impressed by the bearing of these women…” – Johannes Schwarzhuber (March 12, 1946, at the Hamburg trials in which they were executed.)
british suffrage
British Suffrage
  • John Stuart Mill wrote The Subjection of Women which proposed for women’s suffrage
    • Petitioned Parliament in the Reform Bill of 1867
  • Lydia Becker founded the first women’s suffrage committee, also in 1867
  • In 1897 all women’s suffrages committees united to form the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Socialites
  • At the start of World War I, women joined the war effort and temporarily halted women’s suffrage efforts
  • In February 1918 women over the age of 30 received the right to vote
    • In 1928 suffrage rights were equalized for men and women
cecily margot lefort
Cecily Margot Lefort
  • April 30, 1900 – May 1, 1945
  • With husband Alex Lefort, opened their home for underground resistance
  • Joined the British Auxiliary Air Force in 1941
    • Was sent to Special Operatoins Executive in London to translate French
    • Was arrested by the Gestapo
      • Sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany
      • Was held prisoner from 1943 – 1945
      • Was gassed May 1, 1945 when she was considered useless to the Nazi’s
  • Heroine of World War II
  • Similar roles to the British women
    • Nursing, air raid signaling, hospitalization, rationing
  • Lotta Svard organization
    • Auxiliary work of armed forces
    • Largest voluntary organization in WW2
    • Helped Finland hold off Soviet forces
  • Did not typically engage in combat
  • Was the first nation to allow women as candidates
suffrage in finland
Suffrage in Finland
  • The first major European country to permit women’s suffrage
  • Granted in 1906
  • Was also the first country to allow females to run in elections
    • 19 females were elected in 1907 to the Parliament of Finland
  • Extensive role in the resistance movement
  • Worked as couriers delivering messages from the cells of the movement to the printing presses
  • Took part in the actual combat
    • Warsaw Rising (1944) participated in the Home Army
      • Wanda Gertz – commanded DYSK
        • - Women’s Sabotage Unit
      • Over 2,000 female pow’s held under the German army
  • Women over 30 were granted suffrage in 1918
wanda gertz
April 13, 1896 – November 10, 1958

Polish major and solider of the Armia Krajowa

Polish defensive war of 1939

Participated in defensive of Warsaw

Was a member of the SZP (Polish Victory Service)

Organized and commanded the DYSK

“Women’s sabatoge unit”

Was a prisoner of war in several camps

After U.S army liberated Poland she became a member of the Polish I corps in the West

Wanda Gertz
Third Reich offered positions to many women

Auxiliary units in the navy, army and air force

Auxiliary called Aufseherin

Majority of women at Ravensbruck (Concentration camp)

Female Soviet POW’s placed in Ravensbruck

Began arriving February 27, 1943

suffrage in germany
Suffrage in Germany
  • Was granted in 1918 after World War I
  • Was revoked from 1935 – 1945
    • Under Nuremburg Laws
  • Female voting restrictions were also applied to all territories that were occupied by the Nazi’s during World War II
  • Full voting rights restored at the end of the war

Carrie Chapman Catt spoke of the

women’s conference for suffrage

that was held in Berlin.

“Twenty-five years ago a small group of women met in Berlin, Germany, for the purpose of organizing an international women’s suffrage alliance. At that time there was a law in Germany which forbade any woman to go to a political meeting. Yet the organization was effective. “

female nazi s
Female Nazi’s
  • Therese Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche
    • Sister of Friedrich Nietzsche
      • Distorted his work “The Will to Power” after his death
    • In 1933 Elisabeth became a prominent supporter of the Nazi party
      • Gave large funds to the party
  • Irma Grese supervised Ravensbruck, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen
    • Was nicknamed the “bitch of Belsen”
      • Notorious war criminal
      • Executed in 1945
  • Hundreds of female Nazi’s were executed for war crimes at the end of the war
thea rasche
Thea Rasche
  • 1899 - 1971
  • First female pilot in Germany
    • As a member of the 99’s
  • Was the only woman in the air show in Berlin
  • Was awarded “wings around the world for peace”
melitta schenk gr fin von stauffenberg
January 9, 1903 – April 8, 1945

German aviator

Her professional aviation abilities saved her and her family from being sent to concentration camps

Awarded the Iron Class 2nd Class in 1943

On April 8, 1945 she was shot down and later died from injuries

Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg
  • Was invaded by Germany on April 9, 1940
    • Called Operation Weserbung
    • Germany took over the economy
  • Women involved in the armed forces since 1934
    • Ground Observer Corps
  • Danish Women Army and Naval Corps as of 1946
  • Suffrage for women in 1908 in local elections
    • 1915 women received full voting privileges
n or wa y
  • Women have been serving in the military since 1938
  • Women were allowed to serve in any branch desired
    • Including direct involvement in combat
    • Many women were involved in the resistance movement against Germany
  • Directly after World War II (1947) limitations were placed on women in the military
    • As a result of injuries sustained by females in the war
soviet union
Soviet Union
  • Women as aviators
    • Marina Raskova, known as the Russian Amelia Earhart
      • First woman pilot in the Soviet Air Force
  • First nation to allow female pilots
  • The three divisions that women could participate in were
    • 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment
    • 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment
    • 125th Guards Bomber Aviation Regiment
  • Women as snipers
    • Nina Alexayevna Lobkovskaya and Lyudmila Pavlichenko killed over 300 German soldiers
  • Women as machine gunners, medics, political officers, tank drivers and communication personnel
suffrage in the soviet union
Suffrage in the Soviet Union
  • Since women played a large roll in the war, they felt they particularly deserved voting rights
    • Many organizations petitioned the Soviet government for female suffrage
  • Granted by the 1918 Soviet Constitution
    • However there were many restrictions
    • No direct voting by females
  • Direct voting was not granted until the 1936 Soviet constitution
soviet and russian militias
Played a greater role in the military than women of any other country

Over 800,000 women served on the front line

89 of which eventually received the highest military honor, the Hero of the Soviet Union

Sexism still persisted however

Very few women were ever promoted to officers

Soviet and Russian Militias
russian aviators
Russian Aviators
  • Marina Raskova was the first female aviator
    • First to become a navigator in Soviet Air Force, in 1933
    • She convinced Stalin to create female sectors of the air force
      • 586th Fighter Aviation Regime
      • 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regime
      • 125th Guards Bomber Aviation Regime
  • Women flew over 30,000 missions
    • Several were named Hero’s of the Soviet Union
      • Raskova included
russian land forces
Russian Land Forces
  • Women were especially talented as snipers
    • Excellent hand-eye coordination required
    • Nina Lobkovskaya and Lyudmila Pavlichenko killed over 300 German’s as snipers
  • Served as machine gunners, medics, tank drivers, political officers, communication workers
  • Women aided resistance movements again Germany
    • Zinaida Portnova – was awarded Hero of the Soviet Union
    • Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya – awarded Hero of the Soviet Union for work as a Partisan
natalya myeklin
Natalya Myeklin
  • Born September 8, 1922 in Russia
  • Combat pilot in one of the three women-only Russian air units
    • Unit named the Night Witches by the Germans
    • Joined in 1942, at 19 years old
    • Flew 980 millions in total by the end of the war
  • In the years following the war, she worked as a translator
  • Currently is a member of the Union of Soviet Writers
lilya vladimirovan litvyak
Lilya Vladimirovan Litvyak
  • August 18, 1921 – August 1, 1943
  • Known as the “white rose of Stalingrad”
  • 1943, awarded the Order of the Red Banner
    • Promoted to Lieutenant, then Senior Lieutenant
    • 296th IAP was renamed the 73 Guards
  • Shot down and killed on August 1, 1943
  • Completed 168 millions and had 12 victories
fried a belin fante
May 10, 1904 – April 26, 1995

Leader of the Dutch Resistance movement

Mainly contributed by forging documents for Jews to hide their identities

Helped to organize the bombing of the population registry in Amsterdam

Destroyed thousands of documents which helped many conceal their identities

Pursued a music career in the U.S, but was fired for being a lesbian.

Frieda Belinfante
french resistance
French Resistance
  • “Quoi qu’il arrive, la flamme de la résistance française ne doit pas s’éteindre et ne s’éteindra pas” [Whatever happens, the flame of French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished] – Charles de Gaulle
  • Movement against German occupation of France
  • Resistance groups consisted of armed men and women, underground newspaper writers and those that facilitated the escape networks
  • Cooperation with Allied secret services helped defeat the Nazi’s
french resistance1
French Resistance
  • Notable women from the movement include
    • Abbe Pierre
    • Lucie Aubrac
    • Jacqueline Auriol
    • Josephine Baker
    • Denise Bloch
    • Martha Desrumeaux
    • Marie Fourcade
    • Eilane Plewman
    • Suzanne Spaak
    • Evelyn Sullerot
women as spies
Women as Spies
  • French women served as spies for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) after the invasion of Southern France
    • Became a part of the 36trh Infantry Division
  • Women were mainly used for short-range intelligence work
  • Odette and Simone, resistance fighters and intelligence workers were went to Germany
    • Forced the surrender of several German’s
    • Discovered information vital to France’s resistance movement
french suffrage
Louis Napoleon proposed universal suffrage in the Constitution of 1851

Democratic caeserism, which was the policy used by his uncle Napoleon Bonaparte

1871 Paris Commune granted female suffrage

Suffrage revoked with the fall of the commune

Was not extended to females until 1944

By Charles de Gaulle

A French military and statesman

French Suffrage
dutc h resi stance
Dutch Resistance
  • Tiny Mudler, a 19 year old Dutch citizen was a prominent leader of the underground resistance movement
    • “The German’s treated the Dutch very well at first, to gain our trust. Then we began to see what was coming”
    • Worked in the government office, distributing clothing, food and oil
    • Rescued Allied airmen from the Germans
  • The movement destroyed German war industries and lifted Dutch morale
the other side
The Other Side
  • Many countries and individuals tried to prevent or limit the amount of women involved with actual combat
    • Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway the Soviet Union and Switzerland were the only countries in which women could participate in combat
  • Romantic relationships and friendships could potentially disrupt the unit’s capabilities
  • For many it was just because of tradition, which typically excluded women from combat
    • Virtually no women were involved in combat in World War I
  • The possible subjection of women to sexual and physical abuse
the other side1
The Other Side
  • It was believed that females did not possess the physical strength of their male counterparts
  • Excerpts from With the Armies of the Tsar: A Nurse at the Russian Front in War and Revolution
    • “Some remained in the trenches, fainting and hysterical; others ran or crawled back to the rear.”
    • “Bachkarova retreated with her decimated battalion; she was wrathful, heartbroken, but she had learnt a great truth: women were quite unfit to be soldiers.”
effects of women in the military
Effects of Women in the Military
  • Female involvement in the military, especially in live combat helped progress women’s rights significantly
  • Prior to World War II, there were very few women actually involved in combat
    • By the end of the war women proved that they were highly capable of fulfilling combative positions
  • Different countries allowed varying degrees of female involvement in the military
    • Soviet Union had the greatest amount of female military involvement
    • In the majority of countries women lead resistance movements
  • Lead to greater rights for women, and in many countries, namely France, universal suffrage for the first time
the end
The End

Susan M. Pojer, Web Mistress